cover photo with 2 photos of lens flare examples

The Lens Flare Showdown: Comparing Flares with Different Lenses

Lens flare occurs when stray light enters a camera lens and produces artifacts in the image. It’s often seen as a something to avoid, but it can also be a creative tool when used intentionally (and I am personally obsessed with it!). However, not all lenses produce the same type of lens flare, and understanding the characteristics of each can help you make more informed decisions about which lenses to use for different types of photography.

In this article, I’m going to talk about different kinds of lenses and how they deal with flare. Then, I’ll be showing a ton of examples of lens flare organized by the brand of lens used. This will be the collaborative part of this blog post, where I asked bunches of photographers to submit their images using all different brands and lenses. I hope this helps you decide what lens to use the next time you are shooting backlit!

This blog is part of a collaborative blog series! Check out my other blog where I asked a ton of photographers what their biggest mistakes were last year. Come learn from our mistakes!

taken with Canon EF 35mm 1.4L ii

How the quality of your glass will effect the lens flare

When I was first starting out in photography, I would use the cheapest lenses because they were… well, cheap. And I couldn’t afford anything else. Which is completely fine, except for when you shoot backlit like I love to do, the lens flare can take over the photo. Sometimes that looks really cool but when you are trying to get that perfect photo to go over the fireplace of everybody looking at the camera, your client does not want a big old lens flare over their faces.

And this is why spending more money on good glass is such a great idea. Better glass equals less intense lens flare (and usually sharper, higher-quality looking photos). But sometimes I miss my old lenses because they would give me such creative lens flares. So it’s a trade-off for sure!

For example, on my Canon RF 85mm 1.2 lens, it has such amazing glass that the flare is typically minimal and in the edge. Something I love to do is use a copper pipe to create a ring of fire, and I have a very hard time getting a full circle with this lens! It’s so high quality that it resists the flare!

The coating on the glass of your lens can also make a difference in your amount of lens flare. Really expensive lenses have higher quality coating that can help to reduce lens flare. Which you may want sometimes, but other times not so much!

How to create lens flare on purpose

Start with a sunny day and position yourself so the sun will be coming directly into the lens. But the trick to get a beautiful flare is to have the sun partially blocked by something like a tree or mountain, or even your subject. Mess around with the amount of sun you allow to peek out and see what is giving you the best flare. If the sun is blocked too much, you won’t get a flare. I also try and have a darker background over the area where the flare will be so it is easier to see.

taken with Canon EF 35mm 1.4L ii

I personally use Canon cameras, and I have dealt with lots of different lens flares. So let me break that down for you first before I share about other brands later!

Breakdown of my Canon lens journey

At the beginning of my photography journey, I was using the nifty 50, which is the super cheap Canon 50mm 1.8. This lens is seriously a lifesaver when you are just starting photography and can’t afford anything more than this. But you have to be careful because the lens flare can definitely take over the image if you are trying to shoot backlit. But it can produce some super cool rainbows because cheaper glass equals more artifacts. If you use it intentionally, you can create some amazing art with it! Looking at this is making me want to go get another of these just so I can make some rainbow flares!

two photos taken with the canon 50mm 1.8, also know as the Nifty %0, showing the different lens flare
Some of my old work, taken with the Canon 50mm 1.8 – Settings: F1.8, 1/640

Another cheaper lens that I had in the early days of my photography career was the Canon 35mm 2.0. When shooting backlit, it can definitely overtake your photo if you aren’t careful. The photos below are using this lens. I actually really love this one because it goes with the vibe I wanted, but if I were trying to get everyone looking at the camera, I would have a very hard time getting a nice backlit image. This was taken in 2019 when I had sold a lens but was waiting for another so I used this one for the first time in a while and had a goal in mind to do cool things with the lens flare. ????

examples of lens flare using a canon 35mm 2.0
Taken with the Canon 35mm 2.0 – Settings: F2, 1/1000

I dealt with a weird green lens flare (you can see it in the photos below) on the Sigma art 35mm 1.4 lens so I quickly sold that lens for something else. Because this green flare (pictured below) just wasn’t the look I was after, even though at can be cool sometimes. 

comparing photos taken with the sigma 35mm 1.4 Art and showing the green lens flare
Photographed with the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art – Second photo: F2.5, 1/800

Then I spent more money to get the Canon 35 mm 1.4 L ii (what I currently shoot with) and it still sometimes ends up with a lens flare right in the middle of the photo where people’s faces are. Other than that it’s a super amazing lens but the lens flare sometimes drives me nuts. Below is a backlit photo using this lens and you can see that the lens flare is beautiful when you are doing lifestyle images but you have to be very careful with backlit photos of everyone looking at the camera. 

maternity photo session of closup of belly
Shot with the Canon 35mm 1.4L ii
Canon 35mm 1.4L ii

I also have the RF 85 mm 1.2 lens and the flare is always in the corner and so soft and pretty. Absolutely gorgeous and yes, these RF lenses are a lot more expensive than the lenses I have used in the past, but I feel that they are 100% worth it.

A couple embracing in a field with the sun shining through them
Taken with the Canon RF 85mm 1.2

Recently I had the opportunity to try out the Canon RF 50 mm 1.2 lens and it absolutely blew my mind.  The lens flare was so lovely and minimal and typically on the edge of the image rather than right over the middle of it. You can see in the images below what the lens flare looks like on this lens. 

Family by a pool with the sun making a flare

A collaborative collection of lens flare examples!

Below are images submitted by other photographers, along with what lens they used. This is to help you see what lens makes what kind of flare. I hope it is helpful for you!

Cannon Lenses and Lens Flares

Canon EF Lenses

Submitted by Ashley Kaplan:

Canon EF 35mm 1.4 – iso: 320 aperture: 3.5 shutter speed: 1/180

Submitted by Amy Holcombe Photography:

Canon 35mm EF f1.4L – F 3.5, ISO 200, SS 1/1000

Taken by Jaime Bugbee Photography:

Couple with their foreheads together
Canon EF 35mm 1.4L ii on Canon 6D mark ii

Submitted by Christel Tran:

Canon 35mm 1.4L ii – ISO 320, SS 1/1250, F Stop: 2.8

Taken by Aly with Wild Winds Photography:

Canon 50mm 1.8, iso 200, f4.0

Taken by Brooke Holliday Photography:

EF 50mm 1.8, taken on a film camera – ISO 160, SS 350, f2.8

Submitted by Meliza Orellana Photography:

EF 24-70mm on a Canon R6

Submitted by Christina Chacharon:

Woman looking to the right
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM – ISO 200, 1/4000

Taken by Kim Beebe Photography:

Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS USM lens. Settings are typically SS 250, ISO 100-300, F2.8

Canon RF Lenses

Taken by Story Lens Photography:

RF 50mm 1.8 on a Canon R6 – f1.8, 1/2000, iso100

Submitted by Erin Link:

RF 50mm 1.8 lens – 1/1250 3.2 ISO 400

Submitted by Michelle Deppe Photography:

Taken with a Canon RF 50mm 1.2 lens at about f2.

Taken by Tristin Tracy Photography:

parents facing each other with toddler on dads back
RF 28-70mm F2 L USM lens (43mm) on Canon R5 body – 1/2500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100

Taken by Apollo & Ivy Photography:

Kids hugging their mom
RF 28-70 2.0L USM on the Canon R6

Nikon Lenses and the Lens Flares they produce

Submitted by Sara Maida Photography:

Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S Lens – ISO 320, f2, 1/3200

Submitted by Sarah Harrison Photography:

Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ED – ISO: 200, f/2.5, 1/250s

Submitted by Tilly Lane Photography:

Nikon Z6ii with 24-70 F4 Z mount lens

Submitted by Gillian McColl Photography:

Nikon Z 85 1.8

Submitted by Raven’s Nest Photography:

Nikon 85 1.8

Taken by Jo Bryan Photography:

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

Sigma Lenses and flares

Taken by Naomi Boyer Photography:

Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens on Canon EOS R – F2.5, 1/400, ISO 250

Submitted by Krista Buresh Photography:

Canon 6DMII, Sigma 35mm f5.6 ISO 200, 1/125

Submitted by Elizabeth Anderson Photography:

Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 on Nikon z6ii – ISO 200, f2.0

Submitted by Cassy Cole Photography:

Sigma art 35mm1.4 on Nikon D750 – 1/640, f/6.3, iso640

Sony Lenses plus Lens Flares

Submitted by Jennifer Young:

little girl looking at camera serious
Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA

Submitted by Bailey Jack Photography:

toddler boy walking with intense lens flare
Sony 50mm 1.8 – ISO 100, f 2.0, 1/125

Submitted by Bailey Jack Photography:

closeup of pregnant belly in green dress
Sony 50mm 1.8 – ISO 100, f 2.8, 1/125

Submitted by Jennifer Young:

little girl dancing at sunset
Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA

Tamron Lenses and Flares

Taken by Evelynne Gomes Greenberg Photography:

Tamron 35 mm 1.4 – 2.2 1/250 iso 250

Submitted by Becky Langseth Photography:

little girl hanging on post
Tamron 18-270mm (f/3.5-6.3) – ISO 200, f3.5, 1/50 sec

Fuji lenses and flares

Submitted by Michelle Deppe Photography:

black and white of the coliseum in Rome
Kit lens 18-55 Fuji xt3

Submitted by The Enloe Creative:

family walking away into forest
Fuji XF23mm R WR – 1/500  F4  ISO640

Submitted by The Enloe Creative:

Dad and daughter by a tree
Fuji XF50mm R WR – 1/500  F2  ISO1600

Lumix lenses and sun flares

Submitted by Becky Langseth Photography:

little girl standing under tree
Lumix 25mm (f1.7) (this is for M4/3 and acts like a 50mm lens) shot on Olympus camera – Settings: ISO 640, f 2.8, 1/400 sec

Olympus Lenses and the lens flares they produce

Submitted by Becky Langseth Photography:

pregnant mom
Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm (f1.8) (This lens is for M4/3) which is similar to a standard 90mm or 85mm lens, ISO 100, f 2.5, 1/250 sec

Specialty Lenses and their lens flares

Submitted by Ashley Kaplan:

lensbaby flare
lensbaby 35mm – iso: 320 aperture: 3.5 shutter speed: 1/1000

Interested in learning more about how to use light?

You can book an online Zoom mentoring session with me and ask me all your questions! I teach about all things light, family photography, and how to run a successful business. I can’t wait to be your biggest cheerleader!

You can also check out the items in my shop for photographers, as well as purchase the presets that I use on all of my photos.

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you for putting this together. I never knew that different lenses could produce such varying results when it came to lens flare! Very helpful when I consider which lens to purchase next.

    1. Yes, they can do such different things! Also depends on the angle the sun is coming in, you can get different results with the same lens just by changing the angle 🙂

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